On Feb 12, 2:29 pm, Frank Lekens
Post by Frank Lekens Post by Alan Cooper Post by jrsnfld
Yes, the Tokyo is ultimately too suave for me, but I keep it for
the beauty and for fond memories of their live cycle over the
years that I was privileged to hear--a rite of devotion to
Beethoven it was. Those were the most polished quartet concerts
I've ever heard in person, but sadly I have heard few of the
new, great ensembles in person, so I'm hardly an expert on the
My wife and I were privileged to hear the Tokyo many times over the years,
going back to their earliest NY concert appearances. They were always fabulous
in concert, perhaps most memorably (for us) in a multi-concert Brahms series in
Toronto more than 25 years ago. The quartet was augmented by outstanding
Canadian guest artists as necessary. It's a shame that the Tokyo's
extraordinary debut LP (Haydn 76/1 + Brahms 51/2) seems never to have made it
to CD. My copy is the worse for wear, I'm afraid, but it's a valuable memento
of the group's brilliant live performances of the time.
No fans of the Emerson Quartet's set on DG here?
(Just curious. It was so cheap I couldn't resist buying it, but haven't
listened to it yet.)
I purposely left the Emersons off my lists, so I should comment: I
heard them give an enthralling survey of the Beethoven quartets over
the years, coupled I think with Shostakovich on the same programs.
They are an incredible group and they sound like they know Beethoven
inside out, including on their CDs. Those were great concerts, but
maybe now I'm glad I don't live with that Beethoven at home.
So what's my objection? I guess I equate them a bit with recordings
like Karajan's Strauss, Solti's Wagner, and Toscanini's Beethoven (you
could insert a lot else, but I'm generalizing very broadly here about
each of these). These are fantastic documents all, and I do like them
plenty--maybe more than most people--but I also sense my reaction is
often more like, "Holy Cow, you can make an orchestra do *that*!?"
than anything else.
So the Emersons Beethoven--and I just listened to their 59:1 a bit
today for fun--is a lot like that: "Holy Cow! You can make a string
quartet do *that*!?" Fascinating to the ears, total control, vigorous
sensual excitement. It's a great aesthetic experience, but it's not,
in my soul of souls, about Beethoven.
There's wit, but not really charm, not really a feeling of an
experience that takes you from one state of being to another. Instead,
bring a double espresso and be amazed, over and over, but end up just
as wired as you were before you started listening.
I can see why this is a favorite for some people. Nothing wrong with